The Summer is Burning Around Us

July 3, 2014

From Shuli Dichter, Hand in Hand CEO:

On Sunday, the day that we heard of the fate of the three Jewish boys who were kidnapped, the screening event for the final film projects in the Jerusalem high school was about to begin. These are moments when the sky goes dark and all you want to do is go home and come out again when the skies clear.

Even in this darkness, the decision whether we should continue with this evening took about 10 seconds.

It was clear that we could not cancel the gathering because that is what Hand in Hand does: we don’t go home when it’s hard for us, we come to the shared space to live together, through good and bad.

On Wednesday this week, when we found out about the Palestinian boy who was kidnapped and killed, we were about to hold a workshop for all of the Hand in Hand Jerusalem school teachers about the foundations of Jewish-Arab discourse in our school. They were focusing specifically on the National Days -  Land Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Nakba Day - the days that drench us in tension between Arabs and Jews every year.

How do you open a workshop on a day like this? How can you discuss an educational program for next spring when right now the summer is burning around us?

This week Jerusalem is tense, especially volitile, with street protests, harassment, incitement on social media, and forest fires west of the city. The cashier in the minimarket, the radio, and the TV spew relentless words of disgust and anger, racism, arrogance and intimidation, and, sometimes, a few voices of calm.

In the workshop, fear of the fervor in Jerusalem arose, from both sides. After deep reflection, educational planning, and listening to colleagues, the teachers created action plans within and beyond the school that will impact reality here. “We are not working in a bubble, we are affected by everything that happens here,” said one of the teachers, “but that means that we have a responsibility to influence our surroundings, outside of the school walls.”

In opposition to the destruction all around us, the summer work continues in Hand in Hand schools and communities. Summer camps in Wadi Ara, Jerusalem and Jaffa are in session with Jewish and Arab children; in Haifa, the children in the preschool continue to play, sing, and listen to stories in both languages. In the Galilee, the Jewish and Arab teachers are reforming educational frameworks for next year. In the month of July we are gathering for an Iftar celebration for the Hand in Hand staff, and in August the entire educational, teaching, and community staff will gather for two days of training around one issue – the equal place of Hebrew and Arabic in the educational space in bilingual schools.

All of this takes place only because of the work of thousands of Jews and Arabs: principals, teachers, community organizers, parents and students, who, in every moment, create a shared living for ourselves and our surroundings.

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